Posts Tagged ‘The Pretenders’
A “2014 – the year in music” chat with my pal Adam that has very little to do with “2014 – the year in music”.
Cam: I have a web chat I want to do with you for a blog post: a “2014 – the year in music” post for two guys who aren’t really in tune with the latest/greatest music-wise. Vague concept but the subtext is that certain bands remind you of certain times in your life, irrespective of when the music is actually from. For example, when I first graduated from university and had my first job, I was really only listening to the first five R.E.M. albums, for some reason. I still don’t know why this happened.
Adam: 2014 musically for me: he year I became a more regular iTunes purchaser. Easier, cross platforms, no ripping. My Wilco fandom continued to rise and I really, really enjoyed Tweedy’s solo album. Saw it live at TURF this summer and liked every song I heard the first time. Then, I had to wait until the album finally came out in September. Concerts before the album seems more rare. I downloaded and listened to a lot from the spring 1990 Grateful Dead box set with the Omni show in Atlanta becoming one of my favorite newly-discovered shows. Wonderful second set of “Foolish Heart”, “Looks Like Rain” and “He’s Gone”. The beauty of wonderful song transitions. This was the year I realized I may not be seeing the Dead much more as Bobby cancelled the whole tour and Phil is doing long stands at terrapin and the capital theatre. Perhaps that led to my dialling up the Wilco knob towards 11. Added Wilco at Red Rocks to my bucket list. What else. Oh! The discovery of 106.5 Voices radio late in the work season was a special experience. “Ghost radio”, as we call it. Random inexplicable and novelty on a new scale. I’ll think of more once I can scan through my iTunes to see what else is new.
C: Awesome recap! I like how listening to music from the past is always the real measure of a “year in music” recap for most hardcore music fans. It’s why year-end issues of Rolling Stone or whatever never held much interest because truthfully, twelve months of music fandom can’t be limited to music that comes out in that calendar year. I saw some good shows this year: Slowdive, Beach House, Mogwai, Stephen Malkmus. All nostalgia largely but considering I probably listened to more of the Brian Jonestown Massacre this year than any other band, it seems fitting. I re-discovered checking out legit “new bands” early in the year too via Wavelength and Long Winter show. It reminded me of how fun it can be to check out really young bands, even if I have no intention of checking them out beyond those shows. I saw Alvvays and Pup at a library, which was also cool and atypical. So do you basically feel tapped on Dead/Dead-related stuff at this point? Does it make you sad on some level? I’d liken it to reading a really good book and that feeling of semi-dread knowing that there’s only 50 pages left and that void that’s on the horizon. There’s also that morbid silver lining when an artist passes that people tend to revisit their work with a slightly difference perspective. Albeit, very skewed in the immediate. Your Dead is my Pavement. That band was so important to me, as a music fan and to me, personally. They influenced my sense of humour, how I interact with people, the ways I’ve managed my career. Big picture stuff! I don’t know. I think some bands/music brings a point of view that extends far beyond the songs coming out of the speakers. I could probably bring myself to tears just looking at the cover art for Wowee Zowee and yet I’m sure somebody could listen to that album for the first time in 2014 and find it, at top dollar best, “slightly boring indie rock with 2-3 country songs uncomfortably mixed in”.
A: Yes, I am sad about [the Dead going away]. I also am not really willing to do a trip to see Phil at the capital outside New York, mainly because of the driving time and money and needing to coordinate someone else to do that with. Road tripping is a funny business if you’re finicky as I can sometimes be. It’s far. Fuck that. I always drive to western New York shows religiously and still would. Saw Bob Dylan play there in February and drove down alone. Met up with some friends. Found a miracle ticket outside the show that was sold out. Second set: “Iko Iko” was the highlight. I’ve seen Bobby or Phil About 25 times over the years. It’s my favorite music and I’m an unabashed dancer at shows. That’s where you get to do it in the midst of the thousands, also basking in that. All while singing along to your very favorite songs you know by heart. I wished I liked Phish more than I did, as they’re fun like that and I’ve gone to two shows in the last two years. Their live show is a completely different beast compared to their albums. Not a Dead show other than the crossover on the Venn diagram, the spirit and influence that spawned it. It’s still called “Shakedown Street” outside in the lot for a reason. Same crowd. Much more frenetic pace and faster dancing to be sure. Music that people on MDMA would love. Dead music was for pot and LSD. I’ll say that whereas I’d be up on the lawn for a Dead show, for phish, you want to be in the pit or lower bowl. Where the energy builds. The pit in Toronto last summer was amazing. Getting the energy from the crowd pour down on you was a trip. So there’s hope. Wilco gives me that for sure. Nels is fantastic at helping you lose your shit. Check out the Ashes of American Flags (actually just watch the whole thing) versions of “Impossible Germany”, “Side with the Seeds” or “Handshake Drugs” to see what I’m talking about. That’s my fucking jam, that is. I dance to the static at the end. It’s the funniest. I just like 4/4 time, I do. Also, I’m a total sucker for 3/4 time. “Norwegian Wood”, “Ashes and Fire” by Ryan Adams, “You’ve Ruined Me Now” by Norah Jones. That’s another episode.
Cam: I don’t think I’ve ever asked: are you a vinyl guy? CDs seem to have the least amount of resonance as collectibles as music fans. One theory: the glut of shitty AOL “one month free” CD-ROMs in the mid-1990s rendered the format pretty much disposable, even when you were paying $18-20 for a new release. It seems like music being analog-ish in any respect just seems more tangible. Also, I think the ability to skip tracks on demand totally changed the way people listen to albums. Now, we see that x1,000,0000 with MP3s/iPods.
Adam: Fuck vinyl. I couldn’t like it less. It’s absurd to me how horrifically inconvenient it is, overriding the audiophile thing. CDs got a shitty rap up front because all those original CDs were AAD (remember that?). Once they started remastering stuff, I never cared to look back. I also don’t get mono. The Beatles in Mono? Fuck that! Didn’t they hear the stereo versions? Had the Pet Sounds that came with mono and stereo? Deleted all mono tracks. I simply don’t get it. Unless the sound of shitty audio is nostalgic. I grew up on vinyl. I still hear a skip in “American Pie” because the the scratched LP my parents had. Yes, CDs became disposable but I loved my Discman and my Walkman before that. I remember once seeing this portable record player thing at Woolco at Towne and Countrye Square.
C: I’m OK with vinyl but I kind of see vinyl like I see pets: it’s a good experience at somebody else’s house or in public but I have no desire to have one in my own home. I don’t buy this “vinyl sounds warmer” argument that a lot of vinyl dorks will throw out, esp. when they’re listening to it through shitty dime-store speakers they lifted from grandma’s basement or a flea market. Maybe the sound is slightly different and there’s a bit of crackle but to me, vinyl in 2014 is more a statement by the owner than it is a statement about the music. It’s a brand: “I’m the type of person who buys vinyl because it says something about me”. I do like vinyl purely from a collectible standpoint. Perhaps because it subconsciously reminds me of collecting baseball cards. I miss album art and liner notes. A lot. 1989 Topps was the first complete baseball card set I managed to complete. I guess Grateful Dead collectors would be the closest equivalent? The only other bands offhand I can think that inspire that “collector mentally” (based on sheer volume of product) would be the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Guided by Voices and the Fall. At least with Zappa and GBV, I think the completists try to grab everything because it “exists” rather than because its necessarily “good”.
C: Did you see Dylan this fall?
A: Nope. Have seen him a dozen times but the experience has fallen off sharply the last 3-4 years. Larry Campbell left his band and there’s less and less I enjoy about it. Saw him close Americanarama last summer after My Morning Jacket and Wilco. A major drag. Id be going to get one, maybe two sweet harp solos. You can’t go I. With expectations and he can surprise you but the values not there for a shoe you hope to try and enjoy by force of will. Have been listening to a ton of time out of mind though.
C: You know what’s sad? Certain concerts where the ticket buying decision is measures on the “This show will probably suck but this guy might be dead soon” scale. Felt this way about the last local shows for Neil and Leonard Cohen.
A: The band he had for the Never Ending Tour with Larry Campbell leading it was fantastic. it carried the shows. I still like Bob’s albums and I don’t want to be a complainer about live Bob, because you’ve got to know what to expect going in. but at Americanarama, it was the most lackluster “Desolation Row” I can ever recall. It broke for me. especially after Wilco and My Morning Jacket. Actually, it broke for me when Bob played the ACC with Foo Fighters opening. The first sub-par Dylan show post-Larry. Then, I went to see a show up at Rama, which ranks as the worst concert I’ve ever seen in the worst venue. That broke it good. Then, went to see him in Oshawa maybe three years ago, which was pretty decent. Passed on Lewiston last year and here we are now. it’s a weird strange thing when you don’t want to see the people you love anymore.
C: Yeah, the fact Bob played Casino Rama, Oshawa, Air Canada Centre, now Sony Centre… I dunno… this is fuckin’ Bob Dylan and he’s kinda just getting trotted out to whatever room will have him. Did the Rama experience taint him for you? It just sounds really, really sad. Like when you see old ballplayers all broken down and sitting at some folding table at a memorabilia show, signing crap for $25 a pop.
A: Have you watched Festival Express?
C: No. Always have meant to check that out. Do you consider the Band a 1960s band? On paper they should be since their most prominent work and Woodstock happened that decade. But they somehow, they don’t seem of that era. They’re a really unique band to me: if a lot of their shit came out today, it’d still seem contemporary and yet they recorded it 40 years ago and even then, I think they were trying to seem old timey. I’d love to read a oral history-type article of the Band in the 1980s and early 1990s. When they were releasing all those albums people didn’t like or didn’t care about (like the one with big pig face) and yet they continued to plow ahead.
A: Levon’s This Wheel’s on Fire is that book. Couldn’t bring myself to read it. Didn’t want to hate Robby.
C: That’s sad. The 1980s were a real awkward stage for a lot of artists when music switched to become a more visual medium. Id put Robbie, Lou Reed, George Harrison, the Stones all in this category. Their videos esp. from this era tend to be pretty cringe worthy. Misguided attempts to get on MTV.
A: … but 1988 was a turning point!
C: Yeah but you also got the “it’s the 1990s so time to get real and grow a goatee” approach adopted by people like Bruce and Jack McDowell. You know what was really terrible? Mid/late 1980s Robert Plant. “Tall Cool One” et all. Just really weak and poorly thought out.
A: We aren’t going to talk about goatee’d Bruce. It’s dangerous territory. “In the Mood” by Plant is good.
C: Yes. Once they grow a goatee and engage in photo-shoots featuring B&W pics of them not smiling, the tide has clearly turned. Another trope of bad 1980s: bringing in sassy female back-up singers in inexplicable places. Such as…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7btcksg7z8
A: Hold on, you’re going after Petty? He has a short bad album window. He was hitting his early stride in the early 1980s, then toured with Dylan, Roger McGuin and the Dead. Royalty. Then, the accident and Full Moon Fever, the Wilburys. Artist of the decade. Shit. But go watch the Stones’ Steel Wheels video (At the Max is fantastic) for the classic back-up ensemble.
C: I dunno. I’m feeling all feisty after not having thought about Plant’s “Tall Cool One” for 10-15 years and forgetting about how shitty a lot of 1980s production was: this tendency to slot in back-up singers, keyboards, etc. where they didn’t necessarily belong. You know “Tall Cool One” sampled a bunch of Zep tunes (according to the music website Wikipedia)? Just total garbage and very indistinguishable from the equally weak Robert Palmer tune “Simply Irresistible” from around the same era. Truth: I thought Robert Plant and Robert Palmer were the same guy for a long, long while before I knew anything about music. I mean…. they were both named Robert!!!
A: PS:. Loving the new tweedy album. Though I’ve deleted the first and fourth songs Mixed guilt about taking out the songs I don’t like. Weird huh?
C: At least you make an effort to appreciate albums in any form still. That’s rare.
A: I’ve been enjoying buying things from iTunes. I still download movies, but actually bought both the iTunes movie and the soundtrack from Chef. Bought a soundtrack! When’s the last time I did that? Just decided not to buy the deluxe Fully Completely on CD and instead iTunes downloaded. Otherwise, I’m just ripping it into my Mac anyways. And no tax. Strange feeling about it.
C: I’d recommend you check out this. Weird renditions. Weirder audience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUmMkD1fdIo
A: That was kinda awful. The signing cheerleaders was an interesting touch.
C: Yeah, that Neil rendition of “USA” is really, really strange. I assume he’s trying to be provocative… or maybe not? He used to be really cheeky and self-aware when he wanted to be but I hate to say: I think he’s kinda just old or scattered at this point. No idea what the deal with the cheerleaders is. Did you like that song “This Note’s For You”? I still hear it from time-to-time on Q107. I’m not sure it’s even a good song but I like listening to it, if that makes sense. Unrelated, not sure if you listen to the Marc Maron podcast but he had a really good one recently with Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders. I’ve always liked the music w/o being a big, big fan but I kinda love her after this. She’s mid-60s and been around for more than 30 years but still sounds so enthused about music in a really basic, pure way. I love that she came out of the teenage Bowie/Lou Reed/punk sphere and then formed this band that was a straight-up rock and roll/power pop band, akin to a female fronted Heartbreakers. I forgot she was married to Ray Davies AND that annoying dude from Simple Minds:
Some stray thoughts on the song “Joey” by Concrete Blonde.
Is it fair to consider Concrete Blonde a goth band? Or at least “goth band adjace”? Yes, they were moody and kinda brooding although would we even be having this discussion if it weren’t for the fact that they once had a song called “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)”? If you check out their early hits like “God is a Bullet”, they were pretty much hard rock, looking like the Cult and sounding like the 4th and 5th Joan Jett albums. I’m curious if “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” was a conscious attempt at a rebrand, not unlike the Black Rebel Motorcycle and their fairly forgettable tune “Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘n’ Roll (Punk Song)”.
I like when “Joey” was featured on an episode (“One Man and a Baby“) of Beverly Hills 90210 where Brandon started hanging out with a teenage mother who had an infant called (spoiler alert) Joey. So literal. This babies-having-babies swerve was the second most memorable placement of modern rock du jour in the first couple of seasons of “Bev”. The first most memorable is the episode (“Beach Blanket Brandon“) where Dylan listened to “Losing my Religion” by R.E.M. as he and Brenda broke up inside a parked car at the beach. Third place: obviously, the season five episode (“Love Hurts“) where the Flaming Lips showed up at the Peach Pit After Dark and Ian Ziering famously declared, “I’m not usually a fan of alternative music, but these guys rock the house!”
Thanks to that guy on the Internet who pointed out that “Joey” was Concrete Blonde’s attempt to fuse itself with mid-period Pretenders. They morphed sound-wise and image-wise. It’s fair to say that Concrete Blonde and the Pretenders were the same band for a 6-8 months stretch in 1992, not unlike when Lou Reed and Robbie Robertson strangely became the same guy for a brief period in the late 1980s, as pointed out in #ignored18.
Canada’s version of Concrete Blonde around this time was National Velvet.
Much has been made of Black Panties, the lewd new album title from R. Kelly. Come to think of it, much has been made of R. Kelly in general, the lewd not-new guy.
Many feel that R. is mentally unstable or wildly creative or both. His benchmark Trapped in the Closet hip-hopera is largely to credit/blame for this opinion. However, it is my belief that this effort should be filed into history under the “widely talked about but seldom heard” category. Not unlike the Stooges’ poorly-received 2007 comeback record The Weirdness or non-traditional output from mega-stars such as the Flaming Lips, Beck or Rick Ross.
I don’t think anybody actually listened to the entirety of Trapped in the Closet, much less understood it. Upon learning about it, most would assign the “you so crazy” tag and then move on, maybe to joke or rant about it later.
There is a tendency to review this kind of art largely based on what’s been said about it rather than, I dunno, actually listening to the songs. It’s an inherent laziness that many music fans (and people, in general) have. A more recent example: hot young buzz band HAIM are similar to the Bangles since it’s a bunch of cute girls playing guitars. When (obviously) in reality, the true equivalent is the Pretenders in sound and Hanson in hair and face. I repeat: obviously.
Anyway, I digress. R. has made some “interesting” choices in his lifetime, no doubt. Namely this and also this. However, purely as a recording artist, his output has been fairly linear and exceedingly sane for somebody who has been affixed with the problematic label by far too many observers. Trapped in the Closet took some choices and fell flat/weird but in the broader context, it’s a relatively small part of the R. Kelly experience.
For fans of mainstream R&B or Top 40 or 1990s music, R. is just a superstar who made some bad decisions. Not unlike Michael Jackson or Snoop Dogg or whoever. However, R. seems to also be regarded by a totally different segment as something of a punch line-cum-savant who releases his post-Trapped output somewhere between a “come-on” and a “Come on!?!”. Note: there’s a third entendre I could probably throw in here but I won’t for the sake of good taste and SEO. Example.
His guest appearance at the 2013 edition of the Coachella Festival didn’t help diminish this image issue that exists between legit R. Kelly fans and thousands of R. Kelly observers. Taking the stage alongside headliners Phoenix, R. plowed his way through a mashed-up version of his smash “Ignition” as a sea of music fans and corporate guests looked on. Blog coverage was predictably unoriginal in its description of the #amazingness with plenty of implications that his appearance was some kind of grand self-aware gesture by R. himself.
R. was taking the stage on THEIR turf so thusly, he must be adhering to the same class of groupthink that most Coachella attendees subscribe to.
Right? No. Not right.
It would be narrow minded to think R. would think in these terms or possibly even be aware that this kind of contemplation exists at all. He’s sold 50-million albums. Why would his perspective align with a bunch of bloggers looking for bragging rights and few Instagram shots?
Personally, I doubt he gave it much thought beyond the notoriety and the pay cheque.
Smash cut to a few months later and R. was brought in to c0-headline the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival in his hometown of Chicago. The move seemed to be a bit of a hedge for the Pitchfork folks and perhaps a sign of concern that a traditional “indie” headliner might not draw (fellow headliners Björk and Belle and Sebastian were the counterweights). Various accusations were lobbed at Pitchfork, from the increasingly-popular charge of “cultural appropriation” to the never-ending (and boring) debate about what constitutes irony. Note: we all need to recognize that irony died after 9/11, stupid.
The logic of festival organizers was somewhat sound:
#1. If R. completely flopped, Pitchfork concert goers would get to witness a “stunning” train wreck that they could later tell their fellow micro-brew fans about.
#2. If R. nailed it, they could, again, revel in the #amazingness and have a little social media fodder for flaunting both their exquisite taste in music festivals and their heightened (and superior) degree of cultural sensitivity.
All told, it was a complete win/lose-win/lose scenario!
#2 occurred and yadda yadda yadda, we’re now a week away (!!!) from Black Panties dropping. It’s an amusing album title but really , is it any more or less provocative than Isaac Hayes releasing an album called Black Moses or Prince releasing something (in the nude) called Lovesexy? It’s not that notable in an LOL sense and it shouldn’t be seen as the latest chapter in that fake “you so crazy” narrative.
Somehow vis-à-vis Trapped in the Closet, his legal issues and the aforementioned live appearances, R. has become positioned in part as an insane-but-lovable rascal for hipsters to feign mini-outrage over but ultimately forgive and embrace in a skewed sense of self-importance and “open-mindedness”. A small bolt to his broader, less-notable public persona and one that should cease to be interesting to anybody aside from that small circle talking amongst themselves.